LITHUANIAN COMPETITION AUTHORITY IDENTIFIES FOUR PRIORITY SECTORS
In the strategic plan 2022 the Lithuanian Konkurencijos taryba has identified four priority sectors. The authority is planning to monitor more closely competition restrictions in the labour market, health sector (including pharmaceuticals), retail trade and e-commerce, as well as to take active enforcement and advocacy actions.
Priority sectors means that Konkurencijos taryba will particularly focus on certain sectors when performing its functions, including the market monitoring on its own initiative, handling complaints, initiating investigations and market studies, continuing ongoing enforcement actions, reviewing the mergers which fall below the notification threshold, assessing the impact of legal acts and draft legislation on competition, carrying out advocacy activities and participating in international cooperation.
Competition in the labour market has been defined as a priority sector with the aim of ensuring that employees can enjoy the benefits of an open and competitive labour market. This sector has been considered a priority also by the US and European competition authorities. One of the decisions in the field was adopted in 2021 when Konkurencijos taryba found that by agreeing not to pay players’ salaries, the Lithuanian Basketball League and 10 basketball clubs infringed the Law on Competition. Since there might be more infringements of a similar kind, the authority will make efforts to identify them or to prevent such cases by educating undertakings about the prohibitions of the Law on Competition.
The health (including pharmaceutical) sector has been chosen among the priorities, inter alia, taking into account the current pandemic situation and the sector’s impact on the economy of the country. Konkurencijos taryba will devote particular attention not only to the assessment of undertakings’ behaviour, in case of suspicion, but also to the existing and proposed legal framework in the sector.
Retail trade is considered a priority sector following the transposition of the EU Directive on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain and the extension of the concept of a supplier protected by the law. After the amendments to the Law on the Prohibition of Unfair Practices of Retailers came into force in November 2021, more suppliers can defend their interests if they experience pressure from 5 major supermarket chains. It is important for the authority that market participants are aware of these legislative changes and comply with legal requirements.
E-commerce has been selected among the authority’s priority areas given the recent rapid developments in the sector and its growth, and as a result of preventive measures aimed at informing businesses about the application of competition rules to online platforms. The authority considers that it is necessary to ensure that at this stage of the market development, competition between e-commerce businesses is effective. Significant attention to digital markets, including e-commerce, is also devoted at the EU level where, for instance, it has been proposed to adopt the Digital Markets Act to ensure that all businesses operating in the e-commerce sector have better chances to compete.
Setting the priority sectors does not mean that in 2022 Konkurencijos taryba will identify infringements or take other significant decisions in the aforementioned sectors. On a case-by-case basis, before taking any action, the authority will assess whether a particular investigation will significantly contribute to the protection of effective competition and consumer welfare. However, Konkurencijos taryba hopes that a greater focus on these sectors will enable the collection of data and information, which will be useful for a more detailed assessment of the conditions of competition not only this year, but also in the near future.